Thursday, December 11, 2008

Layer 102 Groomed For Success

Christine Gilbert was the eldest in a working-class Irish Catholic family of five children. After convent school in outer London, she took history and English at Reading University.

This is from an article by Peter Wilby in the Guardian last November:

“What drew her to teaching? "To be honest, I can't remember," she says. She climbed the career ladder unusually rapidly . . .”

She can’t REMEMBER? Here’s Her Majesty’s chief inspector and she doesn’t even know why she became a teacher! Not a clue, then, darlin’? No.

"I was talked into being deputy director, resources, about which I knew so little I had to ask somebody the difference between capital and revenue spending".

Duh! This was a fast-tracked headteacher who’d been talked into becoming a top bureaucrat. Is that what you’d call qualified to do the job? Didn’t know the difference between capital and revenue? Was that an equal opportunities appointment, by any chance? Or did her face (Nessa’s face), somehow . . . fit?

Tidy. She became Harrow's director of education before moving to the same position in Tower Hamlets. There, she became chief executive. She says: "I was captivated by the broader community dimension and realised, if I had seen things more holistically, I could have achieved change more quickly."

So seeing things holistically was never her actual forte. Hmmmm.

“By her own account most of Gilbert's career was an accident, with one damn promotion following another. Mann backs her up: " She was always perceived by colleagues and superiors as having the capability. She was groomed for success."

The trouble with effortless success is that, when you get to the top, you can sometimes fall flat on your face. Somehow, I don't see that happening to Gilbert.”

Good call, Peter.


As Glenda Slag, Queen of the Tabloids, would say: Christine Gilbert - doncha just love her! Stickin up for all the poor kids of this country! Drivin up stannads! Get yuwa Stannad! Evenin Stannard! (I don't want to digress so I'll come back to the subject of John Stannard, the National Literacy Strategy, and Ruth Miskin, in another blog).

But yes - the Office for Standards in Education. That's Ofsted in Newspeak. How come they never changed its name when it took on responsibility for inspecting social services? Ofstedsocser still has a resounding Stalinist ring to it. It may have lost a little je ne sais quoi, a little punchiness, perhaps. So I'm going to propose shortening it to OfstedSS. That'll do nicely.

I'm also going to suggest changing the head honcho's job title. Chief Inspector was fine for an era when the office holder had come up through the ranks and had spent time as an HMI working alongside the great and the good of the education world. That was a time when natural selection ensured fitness for purpose, when you really had to demonstrate that you cared about and understood the needs of children.

Now that the office holder has to demonstrate an understanding and caring about the needs of New Labour (that's Right Wing Totalitarian Reactionaries or RWTR in Oldspeak) the job title should be Commissar. That's much more in keeping with a job whose purpose is to oversee the drive to meet the production targets of the glorious five year plan.

Christine Gilbert is the ultimate Commissar - married to a senior Party member, completely on-message, dedicated to the achievement of arbitrary targets, or at least the semblance of their achievement, through rooting out all those who oppose the efficient operation of the education factories, the hot-houses of youth, the collective farms of academia, force-feeding the new generation on imperial gallons of Facts, like so much passive veal being readied for the appetites of the System.

The era of the Commissars began with the appointment of a certain Christopher Woodhead, or 'Chris', as he's commonly known. That's the one - thick glasses, hair like a Brillo pad, the scourge of schools. Scourer of dirty dishes. Like vigorously applied wire wool he managed to turn a sophisticated 20th Century education vessel back into a basic Victorian pot or pan.

"Chris" was the first of the ignorant bureaucrats to be fast-tracked to the top job, a man who'd spent a couple of terms trying to become a teacher but quickly gave it up. He may not have liked teaching, and he may not have liked teachers, dumb creatures that they are, but he sure knew how to bully and put the boot into them, as any Commissar surely must. Zey must not be allowed to stand in ze vey of Progress. Back to ze Future!

As my blues hero, Seasick Steve, would say - you might think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. Christine Gilbert is the ultimate OfstedSS bureaucrat, the New Model Commissar. Her department now measures progress by the sackful, the hectare, the tonne. It's all about numbers and targets. She wouldn't recognise a happy child if s/he came and spat in her face.

Watching her in front of the Parliamentary committee on TV yesterday was an experience. The old-style HMIs and Chief Inspectors of Schools had about them a certain aura, an aura of goodness, integrity, and calm confidence. Ms Gilbert looked like a stuck pig, her face strained and drained, as well it might.

To cut a long story short, the committee reckon she’s doing a shit job as an inspector of social services, but an OK job as an inspector of schools. Well, it’s stating the bleeding obvious to say she’s doing badly as an inspector of social services.

As for understanding the needs of children;
1. Ms Gilbert never taught in a Primary school.
2. She doesn’t know why she became a teacher.
3. She has no children of her own.

She’s never been an HMI - so how come she’s qualified to be their Chief? She was a history teacher. She was a targets-driven headteacher. She was a fast-tracked bureaucrat. Do we need to know more, or say more?


One of these days someone needs to do a thorough job on Ms Gilbert’s performance as Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets and why her political opponents (i.e. Not New Labour) found her so hateful.

I for one would like to know more about what George Galloway meant when, on the night of his election as a Respect candidate, he attacked returning officer Christine Gilbert, saying she had presided over a "shambles of an election which would disgrace a banana republic".


I somehow missed this in the press when it first came out:

SHAMED Haringey Council squandered £19,000 trying to make Baby P scandal boss Sharon Shoesmith look better.

MPs were furious last night after learning spin doctors were hired following the tot tragedy.

Their role was to give media advice to the head of children’s services and her colleagues.

Ms Shoesmith, 55 — now suspended — was given role-play exercises by up to three firms on how to answer probing questions from journalists.

She twice refused to apologise at a press conference over her department’s shocking failure to save the 17-month-old “at-risk” tot after his evil mother and stepdad and a lodger were convicted of torturing him to death.

Lynne Featherstone also says this in her blog:

I read front page in the Guardian yesterday that Christine Gilbert, Ofsted's Chief Inspector, has come out publicly to say that Ofsted were lied to by officers in Haringey in terms of the information they provided when they inspected Haringey. Result - Ofsted gave Haringey three stars just weeks after Baby P's death.

Well - I'm glad she said it. I've no doubt Haringey did present inaccurate information and was trying to pull the wool over Ofsted's eyes - given they wanted three stars because the government hoops they have to jump through mean resources, money and political advantage all come from three stars.

However, as neatly as Ofsted wishes to put all the blame on Haringey, I would just like to point out the feebleness of that as an excuse for an inspection regime. Ed Balls has now moved to say basically these interim inspections are useless and Ofsted must do face-to-face inspections annually. But what on earth confidence can we have in any inspection regime given this failure? Surely the questions and examinations have to go deeper.

And last but not least in this dishonourable performance management system is the Government itself who set it up. Ed Balls is only too willing to look at the narrow focus of the social work and systems end - but not really so far said anything about the Government's part in this devastating failure. It is the Labour Government who set up a performance management system with targets, tick boxes and gold stars on inspection. What bigger perverse incentive can you have in a rotten borough then to be allowed to present false information to achieve a false status? Come on Ed - look at your own part in all of this.


This is from today’s Guardian:

The chairman of a Commons committee has said he has "lost confidence" in the inspectorate Ofsted over its handling of children's services in Haringey, the north London borough where Baby P died.

Barry Sheerman made the statement after questioning Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector of schools, at the children, schools and families committee yesterday. He accused her of failing to recognise the strength of public opinion over Baby P's death and acting with an "air of complacency" after she presented data showing that three children a week had died from neglect and abuse in the 16 months to August this year, then moments later defended the inspection of the services designed to protect them.

Sheerman said the statistic on child deaths - nearly three times previous estimates - was "horrifying". The 210 deaths included 21 babies, but only two of the infants were known to social services.

Of Ofsted, he said: "I'm not confident at all. This session made me less confident rather than more confident that there isn't going to be another Haringey waiting."

Gilbert is under pressure after acknowledging that Ofsted labelled Haringey council "good" in an inspection based largely on data supplied by the council's managers weeks after Baby P's death.

1 comment:

  1. "I for one would like to know more about what George Galloway meant when, on the night of his election as a Respect candidate, he attacked returning officer Christine Gilbert, saying she had presided over a "shambles of an election which would disgrace a banana republic"."

    As far as I know, he was talking about how so many attempts at voter manipulation were carried out by new-Labour.


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